Janata Samajbadi Party’s Bhattarai faction asks Deuba to ignore chair Yadav’s unilateral decisionsSome leaders say dispute in the party has become serious and the Bhattarai faction could break away.
In a clear sign of growing polarisation in the Janata Samajbadi Party, a camp led by its Federal Council chair Baburam Bhattarai has asked Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba not to consider any unilateral decision taken by party chair Upendra Yadav regarding a possible cabinet reshuffle.
Miffed at the unilateral working style of Yadav, four senior JSP leaders on Monday met with Deuba and told him that the Bhattarai camp commands a majority in the party.
“Besides political issues, we also drew the attention of the prime minister to any possible unilateral move from the party chair with regards to a cabinet reshuffle,” Raj Kishore Yadav, a senior JSP leader, told the Post.
The Janata Samajbadi is one of the key partners in the ruling alliance.
“We have not made it public that we are in a majority in the party but we told the prime minister that any recommendation made by the party chairman with regard to a cabinet reshuffle be ignored,” said Raj Kishore. “We are trying to settle the internal power struggle. We have even requested Upendraji to call a meeting of the party and discuss the outstanding issues.”
JSP has been facing a tough time lately, especially after its poor show in last month’s local elections.
Bhattarai, a former prime minister who joined hands with Upendra Yadav in May 2019 to form the Janata Samajbadi, clearly seems to be unhappy with the current coalition.
He has made public statements that the current coalition stands on a “selfish ground.”
Bhattarai has too many grievances, say JSP leaders.
According to some dissident leaders in the JSP, the budgetary allocations to several JSP lawmakers were not made fairly and several issues agreed upon in the common minimum programme after the formation of the Deuba government in August last year were also neglected. There is also discontentment inside the party with the performance of the ministers in the Deuba government.
With the power struggle inside the party getting serious, now JSP chair Yadav is calling for unification with another Madhes-based party, the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, but there is no progress so far, according to leaders.
With regard to replacing the party’s ministers, Bhattarai faction leaders also asked the prime minister to consider only official decisions of the party which they said would have the signatures of all three top leaders, Yadav, Bhattarai and Ashok Rai, according to a leader who was present at the meeting.
It is still unclear whether the Bhattarai camp will oust Yadav from party chair or form a new party. To form a new party, the Bhattarai camp needs forty percent support of both the party parliamentary committee and central committee as per the existing law. And Prime Minister Deuba is not in favour of amending the law to reduce the number requirement to ease a split in the party.
“But Prime Minister Deuba did not commit much,” a leader said, adding, “Since the prime minister speaks less, he said that he will look into the matter, but a cabinet reshuffle is not going to happen soon.”
The prime minister reportedly told the JSP leaders that budget discussions are currently underway in parliament and the ministers concerned need to participate in the discussions so he has no immediate plan to expand or reshuffle the cabinet.
But Chairman Yadav, according to party insiders, wants to remove the Agriculture Minister Mahendra Ray Yadav and give continuity to the other three ministers of the party. The Bhattarai camp, however, wants to change the entire set of JSP ministers.
Speaking to the Post, former prime minister Bhattarai, however, denied having discussed internal party issues with the prime minister.
“We discussed several issues related to national politics, government functioning, and foreign relations, among others, with the prime minister,” Bhattarai said.
Internal party issues did not figure prominently at the meeting, according to him. He, however, expressed his dissatisfaction at the JSP being reduced to a regional party after the local elections.
“As a partner in the ruling alliance, we had several issues including those relating to foreign policy to discuss with the prime minister.”
Leaders close to Chairman Yadav said he is also consulting central committee members in an attempt to resolve internal disputes. Party leaders said that after the “unexpected” local elections results, the Bhattarai faction has upped the ante against the Yadav faction.
“Until now, the Bhattarai faction had only been demanding that the party convene a central committee meeting, but after today’s meeting between the prime minister and the Bhattarai faction, it is clear that the party is heading towards a split,” said Surendra Kumar Yadav, a JSP lawmaker.
Yadav, however, said he does not support Bhattarai faction’s plan to split the party. “These frequent splits do not shore up democracy,” he said.